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South Africa needs a strong foundation of labour market information

Date Released: Fri, 14 June 2013 12:59 +0200

South Africa needs a strong foundation of labour market information across the post-school system and labour markets, including per sector, occupation and region.

This according to Ms Lynn Woolfrey, Manager of DataFirst at the University of Cape Town, who presented a seminar entitled ‘Labour market microdata scoping study: Discovering data sources to support policy research in South Africa’ hosted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

Ms Woolfrey outlined a study that investigates sources of data available for analysis of the South African labour market. It is a data discovery exercise to identify and locate available data sources relevant to the needs of policy researchers and analysts.

According to Ms Woolfrey, a substantial amount of survey microdata available for the period covered by the Scoping Study, 1995-2012, is available from data producers or data distributors that have ensured free discovery and access.

These include Statistics South Africa (SA’s official data producer) such as Labour Force Surveys 2000-2007; other government departments such as the Department of Labour’s Mesebetsi Labour Force Survey 1999; universities such as UCT’s National Income Dynamics Study 2008, 2010-2011; Research Organisations such as the HSRC’s Survey on Migration in SA 2001-2002; International Organisations such as the World Bank’s South African Productivity and Investment Climate Survey 2004.

In addition, two South African institutions, SA Data Archive (SADA) and DataFirst, are dedicated to providing data services to support research and strengthen the research policy interface.

Ms Woolfrey said accessibility, relevance, accuracy, timeliness, comparability and interpretability remain the biggest challenges facing individuals searching for data.

Rhodes University’s Labour Market Research Unit (LMRU) organised video conferencing for staff and students at Rhodes University to be able to participate in the event. This was the first time such an event was broadcast via video conferencing facilities to a campus in the Eastern Cape, and also included Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban.

The HSRC has been interacting with the LMRU, which is based in the Institute of Social and Economic Research at Rhodes University, in the context of the national Labour Market Intelligence Partnership.

The LMRU was approached by the HSRC to organise an access point for Eastern Cape universities to the seminar. Following discussion with Rhodes University’s Research Office, the LMRU approached the event as a pilot for potential future access to other HSRC debates that would be managed directly by the Research Office.

Head of the LMRU, Mr John Reynolds, said the LMRU was also interested in the seminar because of its relationship with DataFirst itself. This relationship includes support in building quantitative research skills in the LMRU, supporting access to Eastern Cape datasets, and participation by the Head of the LMRU in DataFirst's External Advisory Board.

DataFirst is a research unit at the University of Cape Town engaged in promoting the long term preservation and reuse of data from African Socioeconomic surveys and provides a valuable data archiving and access service to the South African research community.

Sarah-Jane Bradfield